Toespraak minister Bruins bij opening internationale conferentie over antibioticaresistentie

Toespraak van minister Bruins bij de opening van de internationale conferentie over antibioticaresistentie op 19 juni in Noordwijk.

De toespraak is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

Your Royal Highness, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues,

Welcome at the second Ministerial conference on AMR, here in beautiful Noordwijk!

And a special welcome to my colleague of Indonesia, Nila Moeloek, who kindly accepted our invitation to co-chair this conference.

Welcome to the Netherlands. A country with the highest standards in healthcare. Consistently in the top of international rankings. Quality, accessibility, safety – all very well in order…

And yet.

Last month, a vulnerable patient in a Dutch hospital died from a bladder infection. An infection we used to call minor. Innocent. Easy to treat. Well not anymore.  

The bacterium who caused the infection was resistant to almost all antibiotics. And turned out to be fatal for this fragile patient.

The hospital involved has been working its way out since February to get the outbreak under control. And despite these ongoing efforts, it is still not under control.

It reminds me once again how no country is safe against this international threat. And how there is no time to rest on our laurels. We are all vulnerable: young and old, rich and poor.  The message needs to be repeated until we tackle this joint problem.

That is why we are here today – to join forces, to accelerate our joint battle against this silent epidemic. That is a threat to all of us.

Ladies and gentlemen, according to a study of the well respected European Centre of Disease Prevention and Control, in Europe alone, 33.000 people lose their lives every year due to antimicrobial resistance.

Even more alarming: the same study shows that nearly 40 percent of the burden is caused by infections with bacteria resistant to last-line antibiotics such as carbapenems and colistin.

This is an increase from 2007 and this is very worrying. Because these antibiotics are the last treatment options available. When these are no longer effective, it is extremely difficult or, in many cases, impossible to treat infections.

Worldwide, the figures are staggering. Hundreds of thousands of people die due to the consequences of AMR every year. Millions of people are at risk. The recent report ‘no time to wait’ of the Inter Agency Coordination Group made this very clear, once again. Aside from the human suffering, this is also a major threat to our healthcare systems and our economies.

Ladies and gentlemen, this tragedy is rooted in human behavior. Using too much antibiotics and using them wrongly. Painful enough, this is a bitter contrast with the fact that in some countries, people don’t even have sufficient access to antibiotics.

Fortunately, there’s a positive flip side to this: It is also human behavior that can turn the tide. And we have a range of solutions in our hands. So, despite the alarming figures, my message to you is a positive one: we are not powerless! We are able to counter antimicrobial resistance.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me say it loud and clear: in 5 years, I believe we should be able to stop the rise of antibiotic resistance. In five years time, I believe we should be able to see those alarming figures change for the better. I’m positive we can pull this off. If we work together, as a global community.  

Why 5 years? Well, only 5 years ago, we started this journey of tackling the global rise of antimicrobial resistance.

We developed the Global Action Plan on AMR. All of us started the hard work, in our own countries. It was up to us, Ministers of Health and Agriculture, to develop a national action plan. Based on guidance and tools developed jointly by the WHO, the FAO and the OIE.

According to WHO, as of January this year, 129  countries have finalised their national action plans and another 51 are in the process of developing theirs; these countries represent all regions and all levels of income and development.

So 5 years can make a huge difference.

However, as I mentioned before: the latest figures tell us we are not there yet. We have to accelerate!

This conference is meant to contribute to this acceleration of our work. To getting plans from paper to practice. To getting from the drawing board to implementation. And from political ambition to concrete actions. This is where we are right now.

We in the Netherlands feel that one of the ways to do so, is by helping each other. Cooperation is an effective way to stimulate that best practices will be used all around the globe.

My ambition for this conference is to bring us all in the position to work more closely together in the implementation of our national action plans. I hope we jointly can deliver on this. That is why I call on you to join forces and look for partners in this fight during a special twinning lunch that we organize for you today.

This conference is also meant to accelerate joint action in human and animal health. On a national level, but also internationally. Working together from a so-called One Health perspective is very important. Because we all know bacteria do not respect physical borders, nor the borders between the domains of healthcare, agriculture and the environment.

That is why I am very pleased that the WHO, FAO and OIE, the so-called Tripartite, are co-sponsoring this conference. I wish to thank them for assisting all of us. In recent years they have provided us with important guidelines.

During this conference we will hear more about their new plans, joint activities and about their ambition to start a joint Trustfund, with this special aim – to assist countries in this difficult task.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Netherlands will continuously strive to keep AMR on top of the international agenda. And our mission is clear: to stop the rise of resistant bacteria. To control the spread of resistant bacteria. To stimulate the development of new antibiotics and alternatives for antibiotics.

And thereby save the achievements of modern healthcare. Save treatment options. Save lives!

5 years have gone by. The next 5 years will be decisive.

Please, join us and make this work!

Thank you.